I thought it would be useful to go back to basics and outline the rules of a good old fashioned, solid press release. Many small businesses don’t have specialist PR or marketing resources in house and if they have a news story to communicate to the local, trade or even national media it’s not easy to know where to start.
It’s not an advertisement
Journalists won’t run stories that are blatent ads for your products or services, so don’t waste your time writing an essay about them if there is no ‘angle’. If the information is about a product launch or company hire, some details should of course be included but they should be able to find any additional information about the company and what it offers on your website or in the press release notes. A story may not be obviously related to your business… but then that’s the beauty of PR. You want to find an angle that a journalist will believe is of value to their publication, your target audience will take notice of and publicises your company via the storytelling.
Boiler plate it
Your key messages can be incorporated in a section at the very end, entitled ‘notes to editors’ or ‘notes to the media’ – this is also known as a boiler plate. It is usually three or four sentences long and succinctly says what the company does, who and where is serves and points journalists to further information, such as the website. Here is also the place to mention what accompanying photographs are available or if the paper or magazine can take their own images, and don’t forget your contact details. A low res photo can be sent with the press release, but the media won’t thank you for filling up their inboxes with megabytes of image data.
Catch their attention with a catchy opening
The title and the opening paragraph, which should be no more than two sentences, needs to explain the story and capture the imagination of the reporter. Journalists are busy people so they need to immediately be able to see whether it’s something that their readers want to find out about. If you do it properly they will be able to envisage the narrative and how it might look on the page with an image.
Include your company name, its descriptor or strapline, and get straight to the point. If you’re talking about an event, ensure its date, time and location are also mentioned at the fore. For example:
Companions Appeals to Everyone to Spare Some Time for Elderly Neighbours this Christmas
November 2015 – Companions, a Saddleworth based company that offers a helping hand to the elderly, infirm and their carers, is calling on people to take time out for vulnerable neighbours over the festive period and through the winter. The Companions care service team spends time with several clients every day of the year, and therefore sees first-hand the positive impact a friendly face and a chat can have on those feeling alone.
In this example, Companions isn’t publicising its own services, but reminding how difficult it is for the elderly to be alone at Christmas while delivering brand awareness to people who may require their services in the local area.
You’re probably not surprising, fantastic or the most excellent
Press releases are not the place for superlatives. You know doubt want to get across that you have a great company, product or service, but think about the language that is used in the publication/s you are trying to get your story published in. If you read about an amazing this or an amazing that, you’d probably think it was being exaggerated and pay much less attention to the article. Journalists don’t do it, so why bother trying to communicate this way to them?
Join the digital dots
Your PR shouldn’t work separately from the rest of your marketing activities so be consistent and connect your media relations to your search engine optimisation activity.
Incorporate a couple of links to important pages on your website through keyword anchor links to help encourage journalists to include such a link in any online coverage you secure. Then don’t forget to use the coverage wisely as social media content.
Don’t quote me on this
No, do quote me on this. You really should include a quote that contains the crux of the story and the key messages you want to get across – it will likely be used within the piece, and it won’t be amended. Some of the quote could be cut, but your words should never be paraphrased by a journalist. Try not to sound too cheesy (!) and a good rule is to include the fundamental point of each of your paragraphs – I’d suggest three sentences. However, if there is more quote, break it into two quotes with a paragraph in between.
If you’ve hit the bottom of a regular A4 page, and you’re still going then go back and start to edit. You may say, ‘but it’s all relevant and interesting’, so ask a colleague or friend to suggest some edits and explain why. It could give you a new perspective and they may even point out parts that they feel are missing from the story.
If you’re looking for coverage in the trade magazines and local papers that your potential customers read, but aren’t sure what angle might work, why not get in touch with us? We’re happy to offer advice and come up with the creative angles, create press releases if you just haven’t the time to write them and undertake the media relations if you’re too shy to pin down the journalists!